Why supermarkets won't challenge you if you're not wearing a face mask

23 July 2020, 12:10

Sainsbury's, Tesco and Lidl have all confirmed they won't challenge customers not wearing masks
Sainsbury's, Tesco and Lidl have all confirmed they won't challenge customers not wearing masks. Picture: Getty

By Giorgina Hamilton

Leading UK supermarkets have revealed why they won't refuse entry to customers not wearing face coverings.

The government's new rules for face masks to be worn in supermarkets and high street shops come into force in England tomorrow (Friday July 24).

But large supermarket chains including Sainsbury's, Tesco and Lidl have explained why they won't be challenging customers in their stores under the new regulations.

Read more: How long will we have to wear face masks for? Your questions answered

Sainsbury's made an announcement on their official Twitter page that customers will not be approached if they are not wearing a face covering as they may have a hidden disability.

Uk supermarkets won't challenge customers for not wearing face masks under the new rules
Uk supermarkets won't challenge customers for not wearing face masks under the new rules. Picture: Getty

In response to a customer asking if the supermarket will be following the rules of mandatory face masks, the store replied: "We won’t be challenging customers without a mask when they enter or when they are in store since they may have a reason not to wear a mask."

Tesco also took to the social media platform to say they will not be questioning customers.

Read more: Where do I have to wear a face mask? The new rules outlined

"Our colleagues shouldn't be challenging or refuse entry to customers visiting our stores without a face mask," the supermarket stated.

Lidl also confirmed via their Twitter account that only the police can force someone to wear a face mask.

"Wearing a face covering is the responsibility of the individual and should only be enforced by Police and council enforcement officers," they said, adding: "The government have stipulated that shop workers should not refuse entry to customers that are not wearing a face covering."


The news comes after the charity Hidden Disabilities created a ‘face covering exempt card’.

While the full list of government exemptions has not yet been published, previous guidance from the government on wearing face masks on public transport has stated that you do not need to wear a mask if you have “any physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability”.

Read more: Face mask exemption cards: Who qualifies and how to get one

It isn’t an official government card, but instead indicates that you have a hidden disability and have a reasonable excuse not to wear a face mask, the charity explains.

They have, however, said that shops and public transport can still refuse you entry if you are not wearing a face covering.


What are the face mask exemptions?

Though the full list of exemptions has not yet been published, the guidance is expected to be similar to the existing public transport rules.

The government has said you do not need to wear a face covering if you have a good reason not to, which includes:

• if you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering

• if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress

• if you are travelling with, or providing assistance to, someone who relies on lip reading to communicate

• if you are travelling to avoid injury or escape the risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you

• if you need to remove it during your journey to avoid harm or injury or the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others

• if you need to eat, drink, or take medication you can remove your face covering

• if you are asked to remove your face covering by a police officer or other official, for example to check your railcard